‘Power. Greed. Lies:’ Saudi mole in Twitter convicted in US federal court

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A sign is pictured outside the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, the US, on April 25, 2022. (File photo by AP)

A federal court in the United States has found a former manager at Twitter Inc guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

The San Francisco federal court on Tuesday found Ahmad Abouammo, a 44-year-old dual US-Lebanese citizen, guilty of acting as an agent of Saudi Arabia and trying to conceal a payment from an official tied to the Saudi royal family, among other charges.

Abouammo received at least 300,000 dollars and a 20,000-dollar luxury watch from Bader al-Asaker — a close adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — to use his insider access to dig up information about Saudi dissidents active on Twitter, according to prosecutors. Abouammo then attempted to conceal the payment by having the money deposited to a relative’s account in Lebanon first and wired to his US account later.

In all, he was convicted of two counts of wire fraud or conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, one count of falsifying records, and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without properly disclosing that work.

Abouammo worked at Twitter from 2013 to 2015. He was arrested in 2019.

“Power. Greed. Lies. You heard this story, told by the evidence, here in this courtroom,” Eric Cheng, an assistant US attorney, said in his closing statements.

Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, is known for harboring a personal grudge against and going after his nemeses. US intelligence believes bin Salman personally ordered the murder of a Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who was brutally murdered and whose body was dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Another Twitter employee, Ali Alzabarah, who was also believed to have spied for Saudi Arabia, fled the United States before being charged.

The verdict by the US federal court comes shortly after US President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia, where he met with bin Salman. Earlier, when asked how he would respond to the killing of Khashoggi, Biden had promised to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are.”

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